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Candidates are locked in close races as Georgia voters decide a pair of Senate runoffs that will determine whether Democrats or Republicans control the chamber in Washington. The races pit Republican David Perdue, whose Senate term expired Sunday, against Democrat Jon Ossoff; and Sen. Kelly Loeffler, a Republican appointed to an unexpired term about a year ago, against Democrat Raphael Warnock.

Election Day in Georgia comes a day ahead of a joint session of Congress to certify the electoral college vote and cement President-elect Joe Biden’s victory. President Trump is pressuring Vice President Pence, who will preside over the session, to intervene in the tally.

Here’s what to know:
  • In Tuesday’s runoffs, 4.4 million votes were cast; that’s lower than the 68 percent turnout rate in November, but much higher than 54 percent turnout in Georgia’s 2018 gubernatorial election. Another way to look at it is that turnout in the runoff is 88 percent as high as in November’s presidential election, which is quite high for a runoff.
  • Exit polls showed partisans sharply divided over confidence in Georgia’s vote count as Trump repeatedly makes baseless claims about widespread voter fraud and a rigged election. The polls also showed Democrats making gains among Hispanic and Black voters.
  • Debate over Trump’s electoral grievances dominated the final full day of campaigning for the runoffs in Georgia, raising concerns among Republican strategists that his conspiracy theories would depress GOP turnout.
  • Here’s where Senate Republicans stand on certifying the electoral college vote.
  • Election results are under attack: Here are the facts.
4:28 a.m.
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GOP Rep. Kinzinger tells Trump to stop spreading lies about Georgia Senate race

Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger (Ill.) tweeted at Trump after the president made another false claim about the U.S. Senate races in Georgia being rigged, telling him, “Stop this.”

In the days leading up to the Senate runoffs in Georgia, Trump began pushing the same disinformation about voter fraud that he has spread about his loss in the presidential election.

“Looks like they are setting up a big ‘voter dump’ against the Republican candidates. Waiting to see how many votes they need?” Trump tweeted Tuesday night, prompting the response from Kinzinger, who has been one of the most vocal Republicans opposing Trump’s baseless insistence that a second term in the White House was stolen from him.

The reason the race is expected to break late for Democrats is that vote-rich DeKalb County, which is Democratic-leaning, has the largest number of votes remaining to be counted.

Several days ago, Trump tweeted unfounded and convoluted claims that the Nov. 3 presidential election was unconstitutional and therefore illegitimate, and said the same applied to the upcoming Senate races in Georgia.

In one tweet, Trump wrote that Biden’s win in Georgia was “both illegal and invalid.” He added: “[A]nd that would include the two Senatorial Elections.”

4:14 a.m.
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What happens if the Senate is equally split after the Georgia runoffs?

If Democrats win both of Tuesday’s Senate runoff elections in Georgia, the Senate would be evenly split, 50-50, between the two major parties.

How would the Senate work if that happened?

U.S. history provides some answers — though not many. That’s because even splits in the Senate have been rare. And because the Senate has changed drastically since the last time it happened, in 2001.

4:06 a.m.
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Why we still don’t know who the winners are

The Post's Jeremy Bowers points out where votes that could change the results of Georgia's Senate runoff elections are still uncounted as of 11 p.m. on Jan. 5. (The Washington Post)

Around 11 p.m., director of newsroom engineering Jeremy Bowers explains why The Post hasn’t projected a winner in either race yet. Bowers points out which key suburban county is important to watch and where to expect “big pools of votes” still to come.

3:47 a.m.
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Pennsylvania Republicans block seating of Democratic state senator, take control from lieutenant governor

Lawmakers in the Pennsylvania Senate clashed Jan. 5, as Republicans barred Democrat Jim Brewster from being sworn in. (Pennsylvania state Senate)

The seating of new Pennsylvania legislators turned into a bitter partisan spectacle Tuesday as Republicans in the state Senate blocked a Democratic lawmaker from taking his oath of office and removed the Democratic lieutenant governor from his role overseeing the proceedings.

Leaders shouted and spoke over each other, at one point trying to conduct dueling sessions in a stark showcase of this year’s political divisions over normally routine functions of democracy. “There’s nothing about this day that is appropriate,” one Democratic state senator, Anthony Williams, shouted at one point. “Nothing!”

Republicans say they will not seat Sen.-elect Jim Brewster as a legal challenge to his victory is pending, although his win has been certified and the state Supreme Court recently sided with him in a dispute over how to count votes in a close race. Democrats decried the move as an overreach and an echo of Republican attempts to overturn the presidential election.

3:08 a.m.
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How Georgia’s political geography has shifted

The Post's Jeremy Bowers and Lenny Bronner outline Georgia's geography and political shifts on the day polls closed in the Senate runoff elections. (The Washington Post)

As votes continue to come in, director of newsroom engineering Jeremy Bowers looks at Georgia’s political divide. Data scientist Lenny Bronner compares where Biden did well in the state in the Nov. 3 election to the results of the Senate races last year, looking for insight into what the runoff could bring.

2:53 a.m.
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Georgia official says a Perdue or Loeffler loss would ‘fall squarely on the shoulders’ of Trump

Gabriel Sterling, Georgia’s voting systems manager, said that if either — or both — of the Republican Senate candidates loses their runoff election, Trump will be to blame.

“I’ll speak outside of my role working for the state. This is a personal opinion that it will fall squarely on the shoulders of President Trump and his actions since November 3rd,” Sterling said during a Tuesday evening interview on CNN.

“When you tell people your vote doesn’t count, it’s been stolen, and people start to believe that, and then you go to the two senators and tell them to ask the secretary of state to resign and trigger a civil war inside the Republican Party,” Sterling said. "... All of that stems from his decision-making since the November 3rd elections.”

Sterling, a Republican, responded “yes” when asked whether he believed the president has divided the Republican Party.

Earlier on Tuesday, Sterling tweeted urging Georgia voters to head to their polling locations and encouraged others to join him in voting for Perdue and Loeffler.

In a message to the president, Sterling, who one day earlier went through an exhaustive point-by-point dismissal of Trump’s unsubstantiated election fraud claims, said: “Mr. President, You already lost the state of Georgia.”

On CNN, Sterling said, “The thing now is, no matter what you say, you can’t undermine the people of Georgia’s integrity to know the voting system works and their vote is going to count at the end of the day, one way or the other, how this election comes out.”

2:39 a.m.
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Trump campaign tries to suggest voting machine error, since fixed, is something more sinister

The Trump campaign continued trying to baselessly suggest that Democrats were trying to steal the Georgia runoffs, insinuating that a minor voting machine error that had occurred earlier in the day — and that had long since been resolved — was something more sinister.

“Is it true that voting machines ‘stopped working’ earlier in Georgia today?” the campaign said in a text message sent to supporters Tuesday night. “Are Dems trying to STEAL this Election? FIGHT BACK!”

The text included a link to a fundraising site that stated: “Are you ready to PROTECT our Republican Senate Majority and SAVE AMERICA?” However, the fine print showed the money would go to President Trump and the Republican National Committee.

Earlier on Tuesday, Trump tweeted about voting machine errors in one of the state’s counties: “Reports are coming out of the 12th Congressional District of Georgia that Dominion Machines are not working in certain Republican Strongholds for over an hour,” he wrote, referring to the company that has been the subject of baseless claims by the president and his legal team for weeks. “Ballots are being left in lock boxes, hopefully they count them. Thank you Congressman @RickAllen!”

Gabriel Sterling, Georgia’s voting system manager, fired back less than a half-hour later to say that the problems had been fixed earlier in the day and that the president was spreading “old intel.”

“This issue in Columbia Co. was resolved hours ago and our office informed the public about it in real time,” Sterling tweeted. “The votes of everyone will be protected and counted. Sorry you received old intel Mr. President.”

His was the latest effort by Georgia election officials to debunk Trump’s unsubstantiated claims of election fraud. At a news conference Monday, Sterling delivered a lengthy, point-by-point rebuttal of many of the accusations made by Trump and his allies ahead of Tuesday’s Senate runoff elections in the state.

Separately, the Georgia secretary of state’s office said in a statement Tuesday afternoon that in Columbia County, “a small number of the keys that start up the paper-ballot scanners were programmed incorrectly.”

“Additionally, a few poll worker cards were programmed incorrectly, meaning some poll workers were unable to start the touch screen voting machines used for paper-ballot voting,” the office of Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said. “The correct keys and voter cards were delivered to the relevant precincts with a law enforcement escort. Issues were resolved by 10am.”

Raffensperger’s office said the Senate runoffs were “running smoothly” overall, with wait times averaging just one minute throughout the state.

2:35 a.m.
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Democrats make gains among Hispanic and Black voters, early exit polls find

White voters in Georgia are supporting Republican Senate candidates by similarly wide margins as they did in November, but voters of color appear to be more supportive of Democratic candidates in Tuesday’s runoff elections than they were in November.

About 3 in 10 voters in Georgia are Black, and they support Democrats Ossoff and Warnock by a margin of well over 80 points, according to preliminary network exit polling by Edison Research, wider than the 76-point margin by which Black voters supported Ossoff in November.

Hispanic voters make up a small share of voters in the state — about 5 percent — but the exit polling finds that nearly two-thirds support each Democratic candidate for Senate, up from 52 percent who supported Ossoff in November’s election. The Democrats’ current standing is closer to Biden’s 62 percent support in the presidential race among Latinos, helping fuel his narrow victory in the state.

Asian voters make up an even smaller share of voters in Georgia — so small that their vote support was not large enough to be measured in November exit polls. But in the runoffs, about 6 in 10 Asian voters in Georgia supported the Democratic candidates in both races, according to the early exit polls.

White voters make up over 6 in 10 voters in Georgia, and they favor Republican candidates by a more than 2-to-1 margin, counterbalancing Democrats’ large and growing support among voters of color.

2:32 a.m.
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In Fulton County, more people voted in person Tuesday than on Election Day in November

ATLANTA — In Georgia’s largest county, more people voted in person during Tuesday’s runoffs than did on Election Day in November, capping a record-setting race.

Fulton County elections director Richard Barron said at least 70,000 people cast ballots on Tuesday, outpacing the roughly 60,000 who voted in-person on Nov. 3. Fewer mailed ballots and less time to vote early in person means that overall turnout for this election will fall short of November’s levels — though the drop-off will not be as steep as in past runoffs.

“Our turnout was steady,” Barron said at a Tuesday evening news conference.

And now, the counting.

Barron said he hopes to have final Fulton County results by 2 a.m. Wednesday.

“We should be able to process almost all, if not all, the ballots tonight,” he said.

He said the election so far has been “extremely transparent,” with live streams and an open observation area to watch absentee ballot processing. He called Trump’s unfounded claims of tampering in the county “patently false” and said his department has cooperated with all of the secretary of state’s investigations.

Barron praised his staff members, who have weathered unprecedented pressure and coronavirus outbreaks that have sickened at least 34 election employees. In the run-up to Election Day, Barron said, workers have also been harassed by phone and on social media, where people have repeatedly hurled racial slurs at them.

And on Wednesday, Barron said a man in Tennessee called the elections office and threatened to detonate a bomb at one of Fulton County’s polling sites.

“The person said the Nashville bombing was a practice run for what we’d see today at one of our polling places,” Barron said. The department forwarded the threat to the FBI, which Barron said searched the man’s home but did not make an arrest.

The FBI declined to comment.

2:11 a.m.
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What historic early voting totals tell us about Georgia runoffs

A record-breaking number of early ballots were cast in Georgia's Jan. 5 runoff elections. The Post's Lenny Bronner explains what can be learned from that data. (The Washington Post)

More than 3 million Georgians voted early in the Georgia Senate runoffs. Washington Post senior data scientist Lenny Bronner tells anchor Libby Casey how that compares to turnout for the Nov. 3 presidential election and what to take away from those ballots.

1:39 a.m.
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Georgia Public Broadcasting barred from covering GOP watch party, outlet says

Georgia Public Broadcasting management said Tuesday that its reporters had been denied credentials to cover the Georgia Republican Party’s watch party for Loeffler and Perdue.

Senior management at the station said they strongly opposed the decision, pointing out that Georgia Public Broadcasting provides commercial-free radio “reaching every corner of the state,” as well as digital content without a paywall.

“When you deny GPB access to such a historic event, you also deny every Georgian living in the state’s 159 counties,” read a statement from station managers Marylynn Ryan, Josephine Bennett, Sandy Malcolm and Wayne Drash. “Local news is disappearing from many of these communities, and your denial is disturbing and against the spirit of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. We respectfully disagree with your decision to prevent us access to the Republican candidates in one of the most important elections in state history.”

It was unclear why the credentials were denied. Several officers in the Georgia Republican Party did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday.

1:22 a.m.
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Senate candidates winning strong support from party bases, early exit polling finds

With partisan control of the Senate on the line, early exit polling shows core Democratic and Republican voters strongly backing each party’s candidates, mirroring patterns in November’s close presidential and Senate contests.

Preliminary exit polling from Edison Research finds just under 4 in 10 voters in Tuesday’s runoff were Republicans, while almost as many were Democrats and roughly a quarter were independents, very similar to the partisan makeup in November.

More than 9 in 10 Republicans supported both Perdue and Loeffler, while more than 9 in 10 Democrats supported both their party’s nominees, Ossoff and Warnock. Independents roughly split their votes in both races, according to early exit polling, which can shift as additional votes are counted.

Both Republican Senate candidates have support from more than 9 in 10 voters who backed Trump in November, while they each win more than 8 in 10 conservatives and White evangelical Protestants. But Democratic candidates show similar strength among their key groups, with both Warnock and Ossoff winning well over 9 in 10 voters who backed Biden in November, as well as about 9 in 10 Black voters.

1:15 a.m.
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How The Post decides what to watch for in Georgia

The Post's Lenny Bronner and Jeremy Bowers discuss the process being used on Jan. 5 to make projections about runoff elections in Georgia. (The Washington Post)

As part of a Washington Post Special Report with Libby Casey, senior data scientist Lenny Bronner spoke to Jeremy Bowers, the director of newsroom engineering, about how his team decides what to watch for on election night.

Bronner previously wrote about why Democrats’ strong showing in early voting might not ultimately mean they’ll win.

Historically, only strong partisans, older voters, military and overseas voters voted by mail or early. But the pandemic and expansion of absentee voting has led many more Americans to vote early.
1:08 a.m.
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Trump looms large over the Georgia Senate runoff

ATLANTA — When asked Tuesday for whom she was casting a ballot in the Georgia runoff, Julie Milum replied, “Trump.”

“Well, you know what I mean,” said Milum, 50, who voted at a polling station in Marietta, a fast-diversifying suburb northwest of Atlanta.

Across the city, 18-year-old Ashley Jones cast the first ballot of her life in an election that will determine control of Congress and the direction of the country.

But her enthusiasm was dampened by President Trump’s continued efforts to subvert the results of the November election, including his false claims that he won Georgia. It gave Jones a sense of foreboding about what may become of her own votes for Democrats Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff.

“It’s like, even if you do vote, it’s not going to matter because [Republicans] are going to steal the election … at least, they’re trying,” she said.

Trump’s name wasn’t on the ballot here Tuesday, but the president and his unprecedented assault on the November election were clearly the driving force behind an unusually high turnout for twin Senate runoff races coming two months after his defeat.

In interviews Tuesday, voters told The Washington Post that they viewed the runoff as yet another referendum on the outgoing president, who has made this state ground zero for his barrage of false claims. The contests here culminated as many pro-Trump Republicans in Congress prepared for an extraordinary joint session Wednesday in which they vowed to challenge Biden’s electoral college victory.